Bell tolls for integration of 'Special' people into mainstream society

Senior staff reporter

Saturday, March 16, 2019

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ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Lorna Bell, the executive director for Special Olympics Jamaica (SOJ), on Thursday emphasised unified sports as a major avenue for integrating people with intellectual disabilities into mainstream society.

“We must make playing unified a way of life — this is a powerful example of inclusion,” she said during her speech at a luncheon hosted by Digicel Chairman Denis O'Brien at Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort and Spa.

“It is important for all of us to be a part of the revolution for inclusion. Lend your voice to a good cause, join us at Special Olympics, living unified and playing unified. We have and we must break down the barriers and make sure that all people are treated like human beings,” Bell said in reference to the unified sports programme — which brings people with disabilities and those without disabilities to compete against and alongside each other.

Special Olympics Jamaica has over 70 athletes in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) set to participate at the 2019 World Summer Games, which officially opened Thursday evening at Zayed Sports City.

The Jamaicans are down to compete in aquatics, athletics, unified badminton, unified basketball, bocce, unified football, roller skating and unified volleyball.

“We must inspire and make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities. The world has come far in support of people with disabilities, but much more work needs to be done.

“Let us join our hardworking [Special Olympics International] Chairman Dr Timothy Shriver and fight for inclusion. That is the only way forward. Better communities, better countries and a better, more tolerant world,” she added.

Through the Digicel Foundation, Irishman O'Brien, who was not present at the reception, has backed the Special Olympics programme in Jamaica for almost two decades.

Speaking on behalf of several countries in the region which have also benefited from the foundation's support, the SOJ boss expressed gratitude.

“I personally want to congratulate him — a real human being — for truly caring for special population, for putting his resources in the area others only provide lip service to. He has chosen to be inclusive, ensuring no one is left behind.

“We in the Caribbean countries are extremely grateful and we cannot thank Mr O'Brien and his staff enough. It's [through] working together that we can reach more people. We need more companies like Digicel; I call them change makers,” she said, while adding that SOJ has 4, 235 people in its programme.

Meanwhile, delegation officials were boosted when 1968 Olympic Games long jump gold medallist Bob Beamon announced he will donate 7500 pairs of shoes to Special Olympics athletes in the UAE.

Beamon, who said he has been involved with Special Olympics for decades, noted that his older brother, who has passed away, was a participant in the movement.

He said that the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the founder of the Special Olympics movement, was also an inspiration with her “incredible vision” that “continues to grow”.

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